Tips for Reducing Multitasking Madness

By Angela Burmeister, Phone Pro Trainer


It’s 8:05am and I carefully pry myself out of my car, balancing a non-fat Venti Caramel Macchiato in one hand and briefcase in the other, while participating in a conference call with my boss and our Sales Director on my cell phone. Just as I walk into the office, my work phone rings, the instant messenger on my computer starts singing and my co-worker is calling for help. The Multitasking Madness has officially begun and I am the Master! I continue the conference call on my cell while letting the work phone go to voice mail. At the same time, I type a response to the instant message while writing a note to myself about a meeting later in the day, all the while giving my co-worker the oh-so-desperate index finger in the air signaling that I’ll be with her in just a moment. Ta-Da!! The Master of Multitasking has once again conquered the impossible…..or so I think.

In a world where technology is king and fast paced lifestyles are the norm, studies about the world of multitasking and its effects abound. In one study, Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft research scientist, found that it takes workers that are interrupted by emails, phone calls, or instant messages about 15 minutes to get back to the task that they were working on. “I was surprised by how easily people were distracted and how long it took them to get back to the task,” Horvitz said. The reality is that multitasking may actually be hampering productivity rather than enhancing it.

“When people try to perform two or more related tasks either at the same time or alternating rapidly between them, errors go way up, and it takes far longer – often double the time or more – to get the jobs done than if they were done sequentially,” says David E. Meyer, director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. Research also shows that multitasking increases stress, diminishes perceived control, and may cause physical discomfort such as stomach aches or headaches. In the end, this madness of multitasking diminishes productivity and makes us work harder just to feel like we are barely keeping up with all of our work!

So what can we do to survive and thrive in a multitasking world? Here are some suggestions that can make you more productive, efficient and get the job done with fewer errors!

1. Admit that Multitasking is not the best way to get things done - It’s time to admit that multitasking decreases everyone’s productivity no matter how good they think they are at it.

2. Create a “To-Do List” everydayYou can use the old fashioned way and write it down or you can use software that can help you organize your day. Either way, creating a list will help keep you focused and on track with your tasks.

3. Do the most important things on the list first - Beginning your day by working on the most important thing on your list will kick start your day with a sense of accomplishment. Even if you just spend an hour on that item, at least you will have a good start. With that good start, the more likely you are to go back to that project later to wrap it up.

4. Check your email on a set scheduleHint: Turn off the alerts that tell you when you get an email. Because of the time it takes our brain to switch from task to task, it is not efficient to answer every email as it comes in. The best thing to do is to schedule three times a day to routinely check and respond to emails. Just because someone can contact you immediately, doesn’t mean that you have to respond to them immediately. Simply respond to them in a timely manner; that will generally meet their expectations.

Remember – work doesn’t control you, you control your work! Studies clearly show that by trying to accomplish too many different tasks all at once, people are less efficient and more stressed. By following these four steps, you can make each day less stressful and more productive. Before you know it, that pile on your desk will start to shrink and you will find yourself much happier at the end of the day with a greater sense of accomplishment!

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Phone Pro provides telephone skills training workshops and seminars focusing on customer service, coaching, and sales-related service provided over the telephone. These articles are provided as a resource to education our clients and the industry as a whole. For more information on how we can assist your company, please contact us >>

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